The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart (1901)/Chapter 10

CHAPTER X

THE PILGRIM BEHOLDS THE FATE OF THE MEN OF LEARNING, AT FIRST GENERALLY

And my guide said unto me, "I already now understand thy mind, and which way it tendeth. Go, then, among the learned men—go among the learned. Their life hath a charm for thee; it is easier, quieter, and more useful to thy mind." "Yes, that is true," said the interpreter; "for what could be more delightful than that a man should, abandoning and no longer heeding the struggles of this material life, employ himself in studying these manifold beautiful things? Verily, it is this that makes mortal men like unto the immortal God, and almost equal to Him; thus do they become almost omniscient, exploring everything that is in heaven, or earth, or the depths, or was or will be. And thus do they know everything, although not everyone, it is true, receives these gifts in equal perfection." "Lead me then there," I said. "Why dost thou tarry?"

(A Rigid Examination at first.)

2. And we arrived at a gate which they named "Disciplina," and this was long, narrow, and dark. It was full of armed guards, to whom everyone who entered the street of the learned men had to render account; also had he to ask of them a safe conduct. And I saw what crowds of people, mostly young ones, came up, and immediately underwent divers severe examinations. Each one was first examined as to what pouch, what posteriors, what head, what brain (of this they judged by the secretions from the nostrils[1]) and what skin he had. If, then, the head was of steel, the brain in it of quicksilver, the posteriors leaden, the skin iron, and the pouch golden, then these men were praised, and incontinently gladly conducted farther. But if one did not possess these five things, they either ordered him to retire or, though foreboding evil, they admitted him at random. And wondering at this, I said: "Why, then, do they lay such stress on these five metals that they search for them so industriously?" "They have great value indeed," quoth the interpreter. "If one has not a head of steel it will burst; if he has not within it a brain of liquid quicksilver, he will not obtain in it a looking-glass;[2] if he has not a skin of tin he will not be able to endure the toil of education; if he has not leaden posteriors he will not be able to endure the sedentary life of the student, and will indeed lose everything; and without a golden pouch whence could a man obtain leisure, whence masters living and dead? Or dost thou think those things can be procured without cost?" And I understood the drift of his words, namely, that for the state of the learned, health, talent, consistency, patience, and gold are necessary. Then I said: "Truly can it be spoken, 'Non cuivis con tingit adire Corinthum'" (Not all wood becomes strong).[3]

(The Entrance to Study is difficult and painful. Memoria Artificialis.)

3. And we pass on through the gate, and I see that each one of these guards sets tasks to one or more of these men, and directed them. Now he whispers something into their ears, wipes their eyes, cleanses their noses and nostrils, pulls out and clips their tongues, folds together and then disjoins their hands and fingers; and I know not what else he did not. Some also endeavoured to pierce into their heads and to pour something into them. Then my interpreter, seeing me afraid, said: "Wonder not; learned men must have their hands, tongues, eyes, ears, brain, and internal and external senses different from the foolish herd of men; therefore must they here be transformed, and without trouble and offence this cannot be." Then I gaze, and behold how dearly these wretched ones had to pay for their transformation. I speak not of their pouches, but of their skins, which had to suffer; for fists, canes, sticks, birch rods struck them on their cheeks, heads, backs, and posteriors till blood streamed forth, and they were almost entirely covered with stripes, scars, spots, and weals. Some, seeing this, turned backward before entrusting themselves to these guards; and, indeed, as soon as they had looked through the gate, others wishing to escape from such educators also fled. A smaller number only remained, until they were allowed to return into the open air; and feeling a desire for this instruction, I also remained, though not without difficulty and bitterness.

(A Device is given to each Learned Man.)

4. When we pass through the gate, I see that to each one of those whose wit had been somewhat sharpened they gave a badge, by which it could be known that he was one of those who were learned. This was an inkstand at the girdle, a pen in the ear, and in the hand an empty book for the purpose of seeking knowledge. And I also received these things. Then Searchall said to me: "Now, here have we fourfold crossways leading to philosophy, medicine, jurisprudence, and theology; where shall we go first?" "As you judge," quoth I. Then he again said: "Let us first go into the market-place, where all assemble; there canst thou behold them all together; then will we proceed through the various lecture-rooms."

(Among the Learned also there are Deficiencies.)

5. And my guide leads me into the market-place; and behold, there were clouds of students, masters, doctors, priests, youths, and grey-headed men. Some of these stood together conversing and disputing; others betook themselves to corners, so as to be out of the view of the rest. Some (as I well saw, but I dared not speak to them of this) had eyes, but had no tongue; others had a tongue, but had no eyes: others had only ears, but neither eyes nor tongue; and so forth. Thus did I understand that here also defects remained. But as I now see that all these men enter into the place, and then again leave it, as bees swarm into and out of a bee-hive, I insist that we also should go there.

(Description of a Library.)

6. Thus we enter; and behold, there was a hall so large that I could not perceive its ending, and on all sides it was so full of many shelves, compartments, and gallipots that a man could not have conveyed them on a hundred thousand carts; and each one had its own inscription and title. And I said: "What apothecary's shop have we then entered?" "Into an apothecary's shop," said the interpreter, "where remedies against the ailments of the mind are kept; and this, by its proper name, is called a library. See what endless storehouses of wisdom are here." Then looking, I see long rows of learned men, who arrived from all directions and turned round these things. Some chose out the finest and most subtle among them, extracted morsels from them, and received them into their bodies, gently chewing and digesting them. Approaching one of these men, I ask him, "What is done here?" He answered me: "I improve."[4] "And what taste is there in this?" quoth I. And he again: "As long as a man chews it in the mouth, he feels bitterness and sourness, but afterwards it changes into sweetness." "And wherefore is this?" I said. He answered: "It is easier for me to carry this within me; also am I thus surer. Dost thou then not see the use?" I looked at him with more care, and I see that he is stout and fat and of comely colour. His eyes glittered like candles; his speech was careful, and everything about him was lively. Then my interpreter says: "Let us see these others also."

(Disorder in the Studies.)

And I gaze, and lo! some here bore themselves most greedily, cramming down constantly everything that came into their hands. Then looking at them more carefully, I see that their colour, their body, and their fat had by no means increased, and that their bellies only were swollen and puffed out. I see also that what they crammed down again crept out of them undigested either above or below. Giddiness also befell some of these men, or they maddened; others became pale, pined away and died. Seeing this, others pointed at them and told each other how dangerous it was to deal with books (for this was the name they gave to these gallipots); some fled, others exhorted each other to handle them carefully. These, therefore, did not absorb everything; rather did they burden themselves in front and behind with bags and pouches into which they crammed these gallipots (on most of them they saw written—"Vocabulary, Dictionary, Lexicon Promptuarium, Floriligium, Loci Communes Postillæ, Concordancy Herbal," and so forth, according to what each one judged appropriate); these they carried with them, and when they had to speak or write something they took them from their pouches, and put them in their mouth or pen. Noting this, I said: "These, then, carry their learning in their pockets?" The interpreter answered: "These are Memoriæ Subsidia; hast thou not heard of them?" I had, indeed, heard this custom praised by some; they said that those only who used them brought forth learned things. And it may be thus, but I noted other incommodities also. It befell in my presence that some scattered and lost their gallipots, while those of others caught fire while they had put them aside. Oh, how they then ran to and fro, wrung their hands, lamented, and cried for help! Now no one for a while wished to dispute, write, or preach any longer; they walked along drooping their heads, and bending downward and blushed, and endeavoured wherever they could to obtain another little box, either by means of entreaties or of money. Those, however, who had a store within them feared not such accidents so much.

(Students who study not.)

8. Meanwhile, I see others, again, who did not put these gallipots into their pouches, but carried them into a little chamber; entering behind them, I see that they fit out beautiful cases for them, paint them in various colours, sometimes even border them with silver and gold, place them in shelves, and then drawing them out again, look at them; then they fold and again unfold them, and walking to and fro, they show one another how beautiful these things are; all this superficially. Some also at times looked at the titles, so that they might be able to name them. "Why, then," quoth I, "do these men trifle in this childish fashion?" The interpreter answered: "Dear comrade, it is a fine thing to have a fine library." "Even if you use it not?" said I. He answered: "Those also who love their libraries are counted among the learned." I thought within myself: "Just as those who own a large number of hammers and tongs, but know not how to use them, are counted among the blacksmiths." But I dared not to say this, fearing that they should give me foul word.

(Disorder in the Writing of Books.)

9. Then when we had again entered the hall, I see that in every direction the number of these gallipots increased, and I watched to see whence they brought them; and I see that they were brought from behind a screen. Going also behind it, I see many turners, who—one more diligently and neatly than the other—fashion these gallipots out of wood, bone, stone, and other materials; then they fill them with salve or theriac, and deliver them up for general use. And the interpreter said to me: "These are the men worthy of praise and all honour, who serve their race in the most useful fashion, who regret no labour, no endeavours, which tend to increase wisdom and learning, and who share their glorious gifts with others. And the wish befell me to examine out of what stuff and in what manner these things (which the interpreter called gifts and wisdom) were made and fashioned. And I see one or two who collected fragrant roots and plants, cut them up, shook, cooked, and distilled them, preparing delightful theriacs, electuaries, syrups and other medicines, which are useful to the life of man. On the other hand, I saw some who only picked out things from the gallipots of others and transferred them into their own; and of these there were hundreds. And I said: "These merely pour out water." The interpreter answered: "Thus also is learning increased; for cannot one and the same thing be done now in this, now in that fashion? Something can always be added to the first elements, and they can be thus improved." "And spoilt also," I said with anger, seeing plainly that deceit was being practised here. Some also, seizing the gallipots of others, filled up their own, and diluted the contents as much as they could, even by pouring in slops; another again condensed the mixture by adding every sort of hodge-podge, even dust and sweepings, so that it appeared to be freshly made up. Then they erected inscriptions that were even more pompous than those of the others, and like other quacks, each one impudently praised his own wares. Then I both wondered and angered that (as I said before) hardly ever did anyone examine the internal substance; rather did they take everything, or at least without choice; and if some did indeed choose, they only contemplated the outward appearance and the inscription.[5] And then I understood why so few attained the inward freshness of the mind; for the more of these medicines each man devoured, the more he vomited, turned pale, faded and decayed. And I saw also that a large number of these delightful medicaments were not even used by men, but became the portion of moths, worms, spiders, and flies, and were lost in the midst of dust and mould in dark presses and remote corners.

Fearing this fate, some, as soon as they had prepared their theriac (some, indeed, before they had begun to prepare it), ran to their neighbours asking them for prefaces, verses, anagrams; they instantly searched for patrons, who should lend their names and purses to the new preparations; they instantly wrote the title and inscription in the most ornate fashion; they instantly embellished the divers figures and engravings with curling flowers; also they themselves carried them among the people, and, so to speak, thrust them even on those who were reluctant to receive them. But I saw that this also availed not, for everywhere the market was overstocked. And I pitied some who, although they could have enjoyed simple quiet, yet gave themselves to this quackery without any necessity or use, and, indeed, at the risk of their good name, and to the harm of their neighbours. But when I gave news of this I earned but hatred, as if I had injured the common welfare. I am silent as to how some prepared these their electuaries out of materials that were plainly poisonous, so that as many poisons as medicaments were sold; and unwillingly did I bear such a misdeed, but there was no one who could have set matters right.

(Discord and Strife.)

10. Then we again enter the market—place of the learned, and behold, there were quarrels, strife, scuffles, tumult among them. Rarely was there one who had not a squabble with another; for not only the young ones (with whom it could be imputed to the insolence of undeveloped youth), but even the old men plundered one another. For the wiser one considered himself, or was by others held to be, the more he began to quarrel with those around him, fought and hacked, threw and shot at them, till it was fearful to behold; and he founded his honour and glory on this. And I said: "But in the name of dear God, what is this? I had thought, and this was it promised me by you, that this was the most peaceful career." The interpreter answered: "My son, thou dost not understand this; these men only sharpen their wits." "What! thou sayest they sharpen their wits! But I see wounds, and blood, and wrath, and murderous hate of the one against the other. Not even among the class of traders have I witnessed anything similar." "No doubt," he said, "for the arts of such men are but handicrafts, and are slavish, while those of the others are free. Therefore what is not allowed and would not be permitted to them, the others have full liberty to do." "But how this can be called order," I said, "I know not." It is true that apparently their arms seemed by no means terrible. For the spears, swords, and daggers with which they hacked and stabbed one another were of leather, and they held them not in the hand but in the mouth. Their artillery consisted of reeds and quills, which they loaded with powder that had been dissolved in water, and they then threw paper bullets at each other. Nothing of this, say I, viewed superficially, appeared terrible; but when I saw that if a man was even slightly struck he was convulsed, screamed, reeled, fled, it was easy for me to understand that this was not jesting, but veritable warfare. Sometimes many pressed one hardly, till everywhere around the noise of swords danged in the ears, and paper bullets fell on him like hail. Sometimes a man, fighting bravely, defended himself and dispersed the aggressors; another, again, overcome by his wounds, fell to the ground. And I beheld here cruelty unusual elsewhere, for they spared neither the wounded nor the dead; indeed, they hacked and struck all the more unmercifully at him who could no longer defend himself, mostly endeavouring to show their valour in this fashion. Some, indeed, dealt with each other in a more moderate manner; but these, also, were not free from disputes and misunderstandings. For no sooner had one given out an opinion than another straightly contradicted it; they disputed even as to whether snow was white or black, fire hot or cold.

(Great Confusion among them.)

11. Meanwhile, some interfered in these disputes and began to counsel peace, and I joined these men. It was also said that all disputes would now be settled, and the question arose, Who was to undertake this? The answer was that by permission of Queen Wisdom, the wisest of all classes were to be selected, and power given unto them—after hearing the adverse parties—to discriminate among the divers opinions with regard to all things, and to proclaim what opinion was the true one. And many crowded together who either were to be or wished to be judges; of those, in particular, who had had dissensions because of the differences of their views, a large number assembled. Among these I saw Aristotle with Plato, Cicero with Sallustius, Scotus[6] with Aquinas,[7] Bartolus with Baldus, Erasmus with the men of the Sorbonne, Ramus and Campanella with the peripatetics, Theophrastus with Galenus, Hus, Luther and others with the Pope and the Jesuits, Brentius[8] with Beza, Bodinus[9] with Wier,[10] Sleidanus[11] with Surius,[12] Schmidlin[13] with the Calvinists, Gomarus with Arminius, the Rosicrucians with philosophasters,[14] and countless others. When the mediators ordered them to bring forward their accusations and complaints in writing, and compressed into as few words as possible, they laid down such piles of books that six thousand years would not have been sufficient to examine them; and they asked that this summary of their views should for the time be accepted, but that each one should have full liberty, later, when the necessity showed itself, to more fully explain and expound his views. And they began to look at these books, and as soon as a man began to look at one of them he became, as it were, intoxicated, and attempted to defend it.[15] Among the arbitrators and mediators also great dissension began, for one man maintained this opinion, another that one. And having thus settled nothing, they dispersed, and the learned men again returned to their quarrels; and this grieved me unto tears.

  1. According to the ideas of Komensky's time, these were believed to be secretions of the brain.
  2. Komensky thus allegorically describes the imagination.
  3. Literally musculous.
  4. I.e., my mind.
  5. This, of course, refers to the binding and lettering of books.
  6. I.e., John Duns Scot.
  7. I.e., St. Thomas of Aquinas.
  8. John Brentius or Brenz, was one of the German Church Reformers of the sixteenth century.
  9. John Bodinus, a French writer of the sixteenth century.
  10. Josef Wier, born 1515, was a celebrated physician and writer, noted for his controversies with Bodin.
  11. John Sleidanus, whose real name was Philipson, was an historian of the sixteenth century.
  12. Lawrence Surius, born at Lubeck in 1522, of Protestant parents, became a Roman Catholic, and was the author of theological works that were celebrated at the time Komensky wrote.
  13. Jacob Schmidlin, born 1528 at Weiblingen, was a noteworthy Protestant theologian.
  14. I.e., false philosophers.
  15. I.e., its contents.